Deck to bring scenic view to Water

Story by Katie Bast, OP / ED Editor

An idea that has been in the works for five years will bring together historical and environmental aspects of the Water Street area.

The Water Street Business Improvement District Board is moving forward with plans to build a deck overlooking the Chippewa River at Fifth Avenue and Menomonie Street.

Water Street BID board member and owner of Mona Lisa’s Restaurant Lisa Aspenson said the project has many benefits.

“I think it’s a really positive project and I think it’s something that hopefully the city will embrace,” Aspenson said.

In March, the project received a $5,000 grant from Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. The next step is to get approval from City Council. Aspenson said she thinks the chances are good.

City Council member Kathy Mitchell said she is in favor of the deck because it’s a popular area of town that isn’t as connected to the river as it could be.

“I personally think it’s a great idea,” Mitchell said. “That particular location on Water Street and the river is kind of at the heart of one of our downtown areas … and there’s not really an opportunity to experience the river. So, this would offer that opportunity.”

According to the grant request, the area will be set apart from Water Street by foliage and sculptures. The “pocket park” will bring in culture and history by including artwork and historical information about the old logging days of the area.

In addition to the patio, the BID board is also planning on creating a walkway to the river and restoring the gazebo near the river at Water Street and Fourth Avenue, Aspenson said.

The deck is expected to cost $50,000, while the project as a whole will likely cost $100,000. The BID board plans to continue fundraising and apply for more grants.

The community raised the question of the safety of a walkway to the river, but Aspenson said she doesn’t see a problem. She said the river shouldn’t be closed off because of potential safety issues.

“People need to respect the water and respect the river and they need to be smart,” Aspenson said.

Mitchell said there’s always the possibility that people could drown in the river, and she hopes the city will take the proper precautions with the deck.

Aspenson said another part of the project includes working with the Parks and Waterways Department to redevelop the riverbank in that area. The bank on the university side near the library was recently restored, she said. Similarly, the Parks and Waterways Plan will help with replanting and the removal of invasive species.

The project is expected to be completed in 2014.